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John Randolph

Member From: 1734 - 1737

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  • Birth Date: 1693 Birth Place:Turkey Island, Henrico County, Virginia
  • Death Date: March 2, 1737
  • Gender: Male Race: Caucasian
  • Spouse: Susanna Beverley
  • Children: Peyton
  • Religion: Anglican - Vestry of Bruton Parish Church, Williamsburg
  • Education: College of William and Mary Gray's Inn - London (May 17, 1715) called to the bar on November 25, 1717
  • Military Service:
  • Occupation/Profession: lawyer
  • Additional Info: ​John Randolph was the son of Speaker William Randolph I (1651-1711) and Mary Isham.
    Susanna Beverley's parents were Col. Peter Beverley (1668-1728) and Elizabeth Peyton. Susanna Beverley was born in 1690 and died March 15, 1737
    John Randolph served as Clerk of the House from 1718 until 1734. He replaced Thomas Eldridge as clerk.
    John Randolph resigned the clerkship of the House before the 1734 session to represent the College of William and Mary as a burgess.
    John Randolph served as Speaker of the House from 1734 until his death in 1737. Randolph succeeded John Holloway as Speaker. In 1737, Randolph was succeeded as Speaker by John Robinson.
    Upon his death in March of 1734, Randolph was succeeded by Edward Barradall to represent the College of William and Mary.
    A representative from the College of William and Mary did not appear at this Assembly until the 1730 session, the trustees not having turned over the management of its affairs to the president and masters. George Nicholas sat for the 1730 and 1732 sessions and was succeeded at this death by Sir John Randolph for the 1734 session which convened August 22, 1734.
    Buried in the College of William and Mary Chapel
  • Bio: SIR JOHN RANDOLPH was Speaker of the House of Burgesses at the last session of the assembly of 1728-17 34 and the first session of the assembly of 1736-1740. He had not previously been a burgess but had served as clerk of the House of Burgesses since 1718.

    Born about 1693 at Turkey Island, in Henrico County, the son of Speaker William Randolph I, John Randolph began his education ''under the Care of a Protestant Clergyman, who came over among the French Refugees." He studied at the College of William and Mary, where in 1711 he was honored "as being the first scholar." He completed his study of law in London, where he entered Gray's Inn on 17 May 1715, and was called to the bar on 25 November 1717.

    In April 1718 Thomas Eldridge resigned the office of clerk of the House of Burgesses. Randolph succeeded him and subscribed the oath of office on 28 April. His was an influential position with a usual salary of 20,000 pounds of tobacco. In 1718 Randolph unsuccessfully petitioned to receive £100 rather than ten tons of tobacco, but within a few years he had his way. In addition, Randolph enjoyed a substantial private law practice and from the beginning of his career ''ranked among the Practitioners of the first Figure and Distinction.'' In 1722 he became a Williamsburg alderman, and the next year he acquired a home there, now called the Peyton Randolph House. In 1727 he was named to the vestry of Bruton Parish.
    From 1722 to his death, Randolph assisted the colony's attorneys general, and during 1726 and 1727 he filled the office during the absence of Attorney General John Clayton. Then, from September to December 1727 he served as acting clerk of the Council during William Robertson's illness. Randolph continued as clerk of the House of Burgesses at the next meeting of the assembly in February 1728 and held that office until days before his election as Speaker in 1734. In February 1728 the General Assembly named Randolph and others to supervise William Parks's Collection of all the Acts ... (Williamsburg, 1733), and in 1735 he examined John Mercer's proposed An Exact Abridgment of all the Public Acts ... (Williamsburg, 1737).
    On 28 March 1728 the House of Burgesses appointed its clerk as agent ''to solicit the Address of this House and the Council and their Petition to the House of Commons of Great Britain in relation to the Prohibition of Tobacco stript from the stalks." Randolph's mission was successful and the grateful burgesses unanimously voted him £1,000 for his expenses. While in England, Randolph also acted for the Reverend James Blair to transfer control of the college from the charter trustees to the president and masters. For this service he was paid 50 guineas.
    In June 1732 Randolph again was "appointed Agent for this Colony, to negotiate the Affairs of the Colony, in Great Britain,'' pressing for an excise system based on bonded warehouses rather than import duties. Randolph gained the full support of Sir Robert Walpole, among whose memoranda is found a notation recording the expense of "Printing the Virginian Petition.'' That petition, The Case of the Planters of Tobacco in Virginia ... (London, 1732), and Randolph's Vindication of the Said Representation (London, 1733) became part of a heated pamphlet debate over Walpole's excise program. Randolph shared Walpole's dislike for the London merchants and the two spent long hours together discussing every aspect of Walpole's program. "Indeed," wrote Walpole's biographer, J. H. Plumb, the principal minister "saw so much of him that some came to believe that Randolph and not Walpole drew up the bill to excise tobacco.'' Randolph's personal reward came in November 1732 when he was knighted. Walpole's program to tighten the excise and customs administration had raised a clamor that became the greatest crisis of his career, however, and the ministry finally was forced to withdraw its bill. Nevertheless, Sir John Randolph's promotion of the House of Burgesses' program was as successful as could have been ex­pected in the circumstances, and the House voted him a reward of £2,200 for his efforts.
    The 1728 transfer of authority over the College of William and Mary from the trustees to the president and masters meant that the college was then eligible to send a member to the House of Burgesses. Dr. George Nicholas represented the college in 1730 and 1732, but had died before the 1734 session. The series of events that occurred during the first three days of the 1734 session appear to have been carefully arranged. On 22 August Sir John Randolph, "having resigned," was replaced as clerk of the House by Benjamin Needler. Later that day a writ was issued ''for Electing a Burgess to serve in this present General Assembly, for the College of William and Mary, in the Room of Mr. George Nicholas, deceased.'' On 23 August an unnamed "Member returned upon a new Writ" -undoubtedly Randolph-was admitted to the House. The next morning ''between Eleven and Twelve a Clock'' the sergeant at arms placed the mace under the table and Clerk Benjamin Needler read Speaker John Holloway's letter of resignation. John Clayton, attorney general and burgess for Williamsburg, immediately reported that the governor wished the House to choose a new Speaker, "and he recommended Sir John Randolph, as a Person equal to, and eminently qualified for that Trust. Whereupon, Sir John Randolph was unanimously chosen.'' Randolph thanked the House for electing him, but as Speaker Arthur Onslow first had done in the House of Commons six years earlier, Randolph discarded the traditional disabling speech as ''a false Appearance of Modesty, or a blind Compliance with a Custom,'' and honestly admitted that he had sought the office. Later in the session Randolph was named treasurer in place of Holloway, whose accounts were considerably short. He held that office until his death, and on 5 September 1734 he was also named to the Gloucester County Court.
    The college returned Randolph to the assembly of 1736-1740, and on 5 August 1736 he was reelected Speaker. John Robinson, Jr., who was also nominated, "declared, That he did not expect to be made a Competitor with the Gentleman that had been named . . . and pray'd, that Sir John Randolph might be chosen, without any Opposition; and he was accordingly chosen.'' Randolph continued as Virginia's preeminent lawyer and in 1736 was asked to examine candidates seeking licenses to practice at the bar. In August 1736 he entered a partnership with William Beverley and John Robinson, Sr., to acquire 18,000 acres near the Shenandoah River. On 18 November Randolph accepted the office of recorder for the newly chartered borough of Norfolk; his appointment was an honor, and duties were assigned to a deputy, David Osheall. "On the Occasion of Sir John's Visit" to Norfolk, reported the Virginia Gazette, "the Gentlemen of the said Town and Neighbourhood, shew'd him all imaginable Respect, by displaying the Colours, and firing the Guns of the Vessels lying there, and entertaining him at their Houses, in the most elegant Manner, for several Days; amply signalizing their great Respect, on this joyful Occasion.''
    On 2 March 1737, "after a long Indisposition," forty-four­year-old Speaker Randolph died at his home in Williamsburg. He was buried in the chapel of the College of William and Mary. "There was something very Great and Noble in his Presence and Deportment,'' a eulogist in the Virginia Gazette wrote, "which at first Sight bespoke and highly became, that Dignity and Eminence, which his Merit had obtained him in this Country." Together with his cherished law library, an ample measure of his character passed to Sir John Randolph's son Peyton, Speaker of the House of Burgesses and president of the first Continental Congress.
  • Other Notable Service and/or Elected Offices: Speaker of the House of Burgesses - 1734, 1736
    Clerk of the House - 1718 - 1734
    Attorney General of the Colony of Virginia - 1726-1727, appointed by Lieutenant Governor William Gooch and Council on April 22, 1726 during absence of John Clayton, served until return of Clayton late in 1727 or early 1728.
    Treasurer of the Colony of Virginia (date unknown)
Session District District Number Party Leadership Committees
1728-1734 College of WIlliam and Mary Speaker of the House
1736-1740 College of William and Mary Speaker of the House

*The information within this interactive and searchable application has been researched extensively by the House Clerk’s Office. As with any historical records of this age and breadth, there may be discrepancies and/or inconsistencies within records obtained from a variety of credible sources. Any feedback is encouraged at history@house.virginia.gov.

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